Georgia football Gimme 5: Looking for a national championship recruiting boost, early impact freshmen and more 5-stars
Welcome to Gimme 5, a weekly Q&A where one member of the DawgNation team answers your questions about the Georgia football program. To ask questions, simply check out the DawgNation forum and your questions could be featured in a future edition of Gimme 5.
Jeff Sentell answers this week’s questions, ranging from depth chart forecasting to the earliest impact 2022 signee to 5-star tracking.
*Questions are shared in their entirety below.
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QUESTION NO. 2
Kevin Bearden via Twitter (@KKevin4268) asks: Speaking of 5 stars how in the world do we not have one committed? You would think the National Championship would help get these game changers? BUT??
Answer: It is interesting how a lot of die-hard fans like Kevin look at this topic. The Bulldogs actually do have a pair of 5-stars committed in the class off of the 247Sports Composite rating.
Yet a lot of the feedback from readers and viewers seems to want just a little bit more. UGA has lost two very high-profile in-state battles with Alabama for 5-star safety Caleb Downs and another All-American talent deserving of a 5-star in legacy RB Justice Haynes. There was also the high-stakes chase for No. 1 overall prospect Arch Manning out of New Orleans.
Those high-profile misses might make it hard to remember the Bulldogs went into Alabama and snagged a dynamite commitment in 5-star cornerback AJ Harris. Or that they beat out numerous national suitors, including Ohio State, for 5-star safety Joenel Aguero.
The ‘Dawgs don’t have a 5-star on the first-year On3 Consensus ranking. That’s a new metric that is based largely on industry averages like the 247Sports Composite. They also don’t have a 5-star commitment based on the rankings at Rivals.com or ESPN.com.
Those elements do add more relevance to Kevin’s question. There’s a clarifier of note with the ESPN rankings. They only have 13 players ranked with a 5-star grade at this point in time, but the ‘Dawgs do have Aguero and Harris both currently ranked inside the ESPN Top 30. Alabama, with the nation’s top class, only has one 5-star commit on the ESPN rankings.
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QUESTION NO. 3
Coleman (@cole_outchea) from Twitter asks: Seems like Kirby’s been getting four or five 5-star guys a year recently. How many do you think we sign this year?
Answer: Let’s first check the numbers for a good gauge on the subject. While the UGA staff makes it clear they don’t pay attention to rankings for their internal evals, they do have quite the history of signing those 5-star recruits. That obvious future first-round draft pick does tend to stand out.
5-star signee history (247Sports Composite) at UGA under Kirby Smart: 2016: 3; 2017: 3; 2018: 7; 2019: 5; 2020: 4; 2021: 4; 2022: 4
Current 5-star commits for 2023: 2 (CB AJ Harris and S Joenel Aguero.)
The track record does indicate that the ‘Dawgs have averaged 4.28 prospects with that elite 5-star ranking during Smart’s time at Georgia. The ‘Dawgs are seen as major contenders for five more prospects with that elite rating in this cycle. Given their history and how well the ‘Dawgs close, it seems a safe bet to expect the ‘Dawgs to sign at least two more of those elite prospects. Maybe even three more with a flip down the stretch.
There are currently 12 undecided 5-star prospects on the latest 247Sports Composite rankings. I think the ‘Dawgs will wind up signing four or five when all the paperwork is in for the 2023 cycle.
Here’s something to keep in mind with Smart and closing time: Georgia didn’t have a commitment from nine of its eventual 12-highest rated signees of its stellar 2022 class at this time a year ago. That will include four prospects who finished with that coveted 5-star ranking that eventually signed with the ‘Dawgs.
In short, there’s plenty of time for Smart and his polished staff of black-belt recruiters to do what they do.
QUESTION NO. 4
Kasey from the DawgNation forum message board asks: Who will make the biggest impact earliest for the class of 2022?
Answer: I really like the phrasing behind Kasey’s question here. Because there are variants of this topic that just point to the end of the season. He wants to see a 2022 breakout early on. In regard to either topic, there are four variables to weigh here.
- The demands of playing the position in the SEC. It is much easier to break in at a skill spot as a wide receiver or a running back than with the hogs on the line or with Tray Scott’s trench monsters.
- Georgia’s nuanced schemes at cornerback and safety don’t really lend themselves to a true freshman making early waves. Especially given the depth on some teams. (See Richard LeCounte III and Lewis Cine, for example.)
- The amount of experienced and talented older ‘Dawgs ahead of said true freshman. They logjam any potential breakthrough.
- What one expects to happen through the Samford (Sept. 10) and Kent State (Sept. 24) games early in the season.
The most talented freshmen for 2022 look to be freshman S Malaki Starks, DL Mykel Williams or TE Oscar Delp. Yet their chances aren’t the best given the stacked room of grown men ahead of them. My thinking reporter’s answer here has been true freshman punter Brett Thorson. He’s already gifted with a big leg and played “footy” in Australia before coming over as the nation’s No. 1 punter. Thorson was already over 21 years of age when he arrived in Athens. Then the only guy who punted extensively for the ‘Dawgs over the last four years just got drafted in the fourth round by the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Yet Thorson has yet to stand out in fall camp. He’s in a battle there. So that muddies my best answer and leads to two alternatives. Starks is a tremendous athlete and it seems like UGA is crash-coursing to get him ready. There is also not a lot of depth at safety. His early breakout chances are better than most there.
My final thought takes me back to the 2016 opener against North Carolina. I remember true freshman Brian Herrien scoring from 19 yards out on his first collegiate carry. When it comes to Kasey’s question of a true early impact against a top 20 team, I can see Andrew Paul coming up with a play or two like Herrien did. Paul has shown that type of promise early on this summer and in fall camp.
QUESTION NO. 5
DaddyDawg2 (@DaddyDawg_2) from Twitter asks: Despite the Bulldawgs’ success on the field, under Kirby Smart, in recruiting and last year’s national championship, what position, from a relative standpoint, does GA still struggle to recruit at the highest level, and why?
Answer: It is at wide receiver. There is no other answer. The biggest difference between Georgia and Alabama over the last four or five years has been at receiver. That’s why Bryan McClendon’s work on the trail in the 2023 class will be vital. He’s one of the best recruiters in the country and a great judge of talent. McClendon goes against the grain with his top guys and his track record speaks for itself.
For those that might think quarterback, that’s laughable. The ‘Dawgs have had zero issues over the years signing the quarterbacks they prioritize in each cycle. Doesn’t matter about the offense. Or the QB room narratives. Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton wouldn’t be in that room now if the Bulldogs struggled to recruit that position.
The 2019 and 2020 classes offered up the hope for a course correction at receiver. It looked like the Bulldogs were going to recruit receivers as well as they did every other spot on the field. They signed Dom Blaylock, Jermaine Burton, George Pickens, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Arian Smith. Those receivers were all among the nation’s top 100 overall prospects.
That trend did not continue.
The highest-rated receiver UGA signed in 2021 was No. 387 overall and No. 231 overall in 2022. It is a good thing the ‘Dawgs had superior evals with A.D. Mitchell, Ladd McConkey and Jackson Meeks over the last two cycles. If not, that room would really be thin.
McClendon has the ‘Dawgs deep in the hunt for 5-star WR Hykeem Williams (No. 26 overall) and 4-star Tyler Williams (No. 184 overall) in this class. Raymond Cottrell (No. 165 overall) has seen his rankings slide about 60 spots of late, but he is also a long-time commit at that position.
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